National Volunteers Week 2018 – Meet the South and West Yorkshire Volunteer Team

To celebrate UK National Volunteers Week (1-7th June 2018), we’d like to introduce you to the hard working volunteers in the South and West Yorkshire office. Jared, Jack, Ian and Phil are Amy’s dedicated team, tirelessly helping to record the 1000s of artefacts that pass through the office each year, with very little grumbling! Everyone at PAS would like to say a heartfelt “Thank you” to all four.

Jack describes his experience of volunteering in his own words below. His main role is to add finds to the PAS database, research them and write descriptions. Jack also finds time to serve on the committee of his local detecting club. He is also kind enough to help out with filing when needed too!

Ian and Phil have very different and specialised skills. They are the photography team. Both are keen amateur photographers, upstanding members of their respective camera clubs, but who knew very little about archaeology before joining the PAS team, so they have enjoyed a very steep learning curve.

Ian - PAS photography volunteer
Ian – PAS photography volunteer. Copyright: West Yorkshire Archaeology Advisory Service. License: CC-BY

Ian has bravely taken up the challenge of getting to grips with photographing flints, some of which are tiny microliths with extremely fine working which is very difficult even to see, let along show on an image. Flints are also often translucent, making them particularly to light effectively when photographing them. Ian photographs and then manipulates the images for a huge number of non-flint finds too. As well as giving up his time for the PAS, Ian is also the competition secretary for Ossett Camera Club.

Mesolithic Microlith SWYOR-0491F6
Mesolithic Microlith SWYOR-0491F6. Copyright West Yorkshire Archaeology Advisory Service. License: CC-BY

Like Ian, Phil also routinely photographs and edits huge quantities of typical finds, but he has focussed on developing the best ways to photograph objects of silver and gold, which are tricky because they are so reflective. As well as the record images that go on the PAS database, he also creates more artistic compositions of finds which can be used for publications and displays. Before joining PAS, Phil also volunteered for English Heritage at Brodsworth Hall as a room guide, and he now juggles both roles.

Silver seal matrix SWYOR-7392EC
More artistic image of a silver seal matrix SWYOR-7392EC. Copyright: West Yorkshire Archaeology Advisory Service. License CC-BY
Phil - PAS photography volunteer
Phil – PAS photography volunteer. Copyright: West Yorkshire Archaeology Advisory Service. License: CC-BY

Both Ian and Phil come into the office to photograph finds, but they also undertake work at home, editing the photos they have taken. Additionally, they spend time at home editing photos that other FLOs send their way digitally. This work helps to improve the quality of some of the older or incomplete records on the PAS database.

All three volunteers have dedicated many, many hours to the PAS, both in the office and at home, and their contribution is hugely appreciated. Without their help, far fewer finds could be recorded onto the PAS database, and the quality of the images would certainly be much poorer. It is particularly impressive that all three of them combine their volunteering for PAS with other volunteer roles.

Jack - PAS volunteer
Jack – PAS volunteer. Copyright: West Yorkshire Archaeology Advisory Service. License: CC-BY

This is how Jack describes his experience as a PAS volunteer: “Hello, I’m Jack Coulthard and I have been a PAS volunteer for just over ten years now. I have no background in archaeology but studied history at university in the late 1960s and then taught the subject for a couple of years. After that I had a complete change of career and spent the rest of my working life in the computer software industry. Although that is about as far as it is possible to get from history and archaeology I never lost interest in either discipline. After retiring I took up metal detecting and first met our FLO Amy Downes when I took some items to one of her recording days.

When Amy had a vacancy for a volunteer with the PAS in South and West Yorkshire, I didn’t have to think very hard before offering my services as I knew it would be a fascinating experience. And so it has proved. I now help with the recording of artefacts and every day in the office brings something new, from common items like Roman bronze coins to spectacular things like the collection of Early Medieval gold rings that were unearthed on the outskirts of Leeds and are now on display in the Leeds City Museum.

The West Yorkshire gold and garnet hoard (2008 T553) SWYOR-F86A02.
The West Yorkshire gold and garnet hoard (2008 T553) SWYOR-F86A02. Copyright The British Museum. License: CC BY-SA

If I had to choose a particular period that I am interested in it would be a difficult decision but I would probably choose the Roman period because they were such amazing craftsmen. I am always amazed at the quality and variety of their brooches and have a particularly soft spot for enamelled disc brooches. But all the artefacts that cross my desk, whatever period they belong to, are fascinating in their own way and, as there is such variety, I often find that I am dealing with something that I have never seen before, so am learning something new all the time and am looking forward to learning even more over the next few years.”

Recently, the Volunteer Team has had a new addition. Jared has recently finished an MA in Medieval History and has joined the team mainly to help with administrative tasks, but he is also learning about finds and how to add them to the PAS database. We’ll get him trained up in no time!

Thank you Jack, Ian, Phil and Jared for your amazing contribution to PAS and for helping Amy – please don’t ever leave!